'End in sight' for Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel saga - a decade after work first began
The end of a troubled renovation project at the Tyne Pedestrian and Cyclist Tunnel may finally be in sight – a decade after work began.
Refurbishment work at the Grade II-listed tunnel has been plagued by problems and suffered a string of costly setbacks since it was first closed for a major revamp in May 2013.
While the historic crossing, which connects Howdon and Jarrow, has been back in use since the summer of 2019, one key piece of work has been left unfinished.
The installation of two new glass lifts has been a long-running saga in itself, heavily delayed amid a dispute with Italian contractors and supply chain problems.
Early January 2023 saw the tunnel close for a number of days due to a fault with the existing lifts.
A new, UK-based firm was appointed to complete the two inclined lifts in 2021, but any hopes that the final works would progress quickly were scuppered by difficulties sourcing parts for the bespoke installations.
However, a new report confirms that the required parts were finally delivered last month and it is now hoped that the lifts can be completed by late spring, after which they will need to go through a testing process before being put into use.
The two glass structures, which will travel on a steep incline down the historic escalator shaft to the lowest part of the tunnels, will be able to carry up to six cyclists and their bikes per trip and it is hoped they will also be a tourist attraction.
A report to the North East Joint Transport Committee this week states: “Completion and certification of the inclined lifts is awaited as they have proved difficult to complete due to the bespoke nature of the design and issues with contractors.”
It adds: “New parts are required and were ordered in mid-2022 however they were subject to a longer delivery process than expected due to supply chain delays. The new parts were delivered to the UK in December 2022, which means the works can progress in early 2023 with the aim of the installation works being completed in the late spring of 2023.
“Once the new parts are installed and fitted, the works can then move on to the final stage of testing and certification. Once they are operational, the new lifts will be able to carry up to six cyclists and their bikes in one journey.”
The decision to renovate the grade II-listed tunnel was taken by local authorities all the way back in 2008 and the works had been due to finish in 2015.
But the project encountered a string of problems blamed on various factors including the tunnel’s listed status, the discovery of asbestos and original contractor GB Building Solutions going bust.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service previously revealed in 2020 that the cost of the tunnels’ renovation stood then at £16.9m, way above the initial £6.9m earmarked for the project.
British firm Lift Design Limited were brought in to replace Italian engineers Maspero Elevatori to complete the lift works, with the latter having not returned to the North East since January 2020 – initially because of Covid lockdown restrictions.